Northern Ireland sculptors Brendan Jamison and Mark Revels are off to Dubai today to make life a little sweeter for the next generation of scientists.
Spending the month in UAE, they will recreate some of the city’s most iconic landmarks as well as their own intricate creations.
But these are no ordinary structures – they are made entirely of sugar.
They will be acting as artists-in-residence at the Think Science Festival in Dubai - a science fair aimed at 15-24 year-olds interested in science and technology.
Their project, entitled Sugar Science, is in partnership with British Council, Invest NI and the NI Science Festival, and will feature some of Dubai’s most celebrated architecture as well as a hands-on workshop, where participants will be encouraged to create free-standing structures within the Sugar Science installation space.
It is part of UK/UAE 2017 Year of Creative Collaboration, a season of arts and an event in the UAE aimed at building new audiences, creating new collaborations and strengthening relationships.
Notable landmarks in the exhibition will include Dubai’s most iconic building, Burj Khalifa, which is rendered at a scale of 1:1000 and will be made up of 5,040 sugar cubes – the equivalent of a whooping 50,400 calories.
According to Brendan, the pair are the only sculptors building out of sugar in this way, with their own pioneering carving technique.
He said: “Originally, when I started with sugar back in 2003, I was just sticking cubes together in a very crude way – but after three months I developed a technique where I was actually able to carve – and then it took me another ten years to perfect it.
“Mark then came on-board in 2013 when I needed help with a project in the Ulster Museum, and with a background in TV production and set design, he really took to it, and we’ve been a pair ever since.
“There’s no other artists out there doing what we do – so I think it should be a big draw as part of the science fair.”
And for Brendan, there is an educational aspect to Sugar Science too.
He said: “Apart from learning about construction, engineering and design, we also wanted to link this project to medical science, so we’ve also produced a sugar equation chart for each of the sculptures, which we hope to use to educate participants in diabetes and healthcare.”
The pair will spend the next month constructing and working on the project in Dubai, before the actual event, which will open the Think Science Festival at Dubai's World Trade Center from April, 18-20 2017.
Speaking about the month ahead, Mark said:
“We’re really excited to be going – Dubai is somewhere we have never been before and we’re looking forward to experiencing it. We hope young people enjoy taking part in the workshops – they will be working with thousands of free-standing sugar cubes which can get as high as six or seven feet ... It should be a lot of fun.
“No matter where you go in the world, people tend to respond in the same way – we’ve had people come before and still be there after six hours – people can get so into it and become really competitive .The workshops are also really important for getting people to use their imaginations and will contribute to the final artwork as part of the general installation.”
The pair spend at least eight months of the year working away from home, with in the past, sugar taking them to places as far out as China, the US and even Ukraine. Brendan has worked with the British Council before, having worked in both Germany and China through their Artists’ International Development Fund.
Speaking about this visit to Dubai was Jonathan Stewart, Deputy Director, British Council Northern Ireland.
He said: “It’s great to be continuing our work with science in Northern Ireland and building on the success of the recent NI Science Festival. Collaborations such as this are an important tool to build bridges between nations and a great way to put Northern Ireland on the map. Science is a universal language, which we believe encourages mutual understanding and trust and helps people in the UK and other countries work together to address global challenges.”
The future’s looking pretty sweet for Mark and Brendan.
Mark said: “I don’t think we’ll ever get bored with working with sugar – though saying that, we’re heading to Ukraine in May to work on wool and felt sculptures, and then in November doing something similar in Belfast.”
But they can never see themselves giving up on sugar entirely.
Brendan added: “There’s something about working with it; it’s unlike anything else. It’s just magical – pure and white, and the way it glistens; just like something out of a fairy tale. It’s also so accessible; so much Art is out of reach, but sugar is an everyday household item that everyone can relate to.
“And if you have imagination, well … the possibilities are endless.”
Brendan Jamison and Mark Revels will be displaying their work at Dubai’s World Trade Center from April, 18-20 2017.
For more information on British Council Northern Ireland and work they do in the Arts, visit http://nireland.britishcouncil.org.